In this book, Herbert Schlesinger, who has had an illustrious career as academic psychologist, training director of a Ph.D. program in clinical psychology, head of the psychology department at a major medical center, and senior psychoanalyst, sums up a lifetime of experience in contemplating technique. He differentiates what he has found useful from what he was taught, and he offers reformulations of basic psychoanalytic notions while more or less affirming a contemporary Freudian paradigm. This work brims with wisdom for the beginning analyst, but is also absorbing reading for analysts at any stage in their careers. Indeed, Schlesinger's book holds value for psychotherapists of any kind: in dwelling upon the theme of respect for the patient, it exemplifies the thoughtfulness that informs clinical psychoanalytic work.
Schlesinger persistently urges us to aim toward increasing the activity of the patient. He asserts that analysts do not analyze—patients do, and he invokes the (Socratic) image of a midwife to capture the role of the analyst (pp. 31-32). The analyst must strive to avoid doing for the patient, according to Schlesinger, what the patient can do for him-/herself. He situates the work of the analyst between the danger of “absolute certainty” and the “fear of making a mistake” (p. 44). Much hangs on how this middle ground is spelled out.
In the introduction, Schlesinger observes that, while he was trained in the era of ego psychology, he is dubious about aspects of it, especially metapsychology, and he states his preference not to probe and/or identify himself with any theoretical orientation. In a characteristically gruff but articulate formulation, he announces, “I do not find scholastic disputes interesting” (p. xii). It is a breath of fresh air to encounter an analyst who resists the dogmatism that has dogged psychoanalysis since its inception. Yet, one might wonder whether theoretical assumptions can be so easily cast aside. It is salutary, though, for an author to struggle to define where he/she stands.
Schlesinger's theoretical stance can be described as a pragmatic one.
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